Posts tagged ‘Dams’

June 27, 2014

Construction on Laos’s Mekong dams harried by lawsuits, political pressure

 

Construction on Laos’s Mekong dams harried by lawsuits, political pressure 

Friday, June 27, 2014 16:04
In a gesture likely aimed at placating its neighbors, Laos has agreed to submit its second Mekong River dam to the regional consultation process it sidestepped last year.
But experts say Laos is nowhere close to abandoning the dam and another it’s building on the Mekong. Environmental groups say these projects threaten the livelihood of tens of millions of people who depend on the mighty river.
“I fear that this will, at the best, only delay the construction by six months,” Marc Goichot, who works for environmental group WWF’s Greater Mekong program on sustainable hydropower, told Thanh Nien News.
“There are not yet any signs that the proponents of the project are taking seriously the concerns voiced by other Mekong riparian governments,” he said, adding that he believes the Lao government is unlikely to reconsider the project.
Last September, Laos announced that it would embark on the Don Sahong project, the second of 11 dams planned by Laos on the lower reaches of the 4,900-kilometer (3,045-mile)-long Mekong, which is second only to the Amazon in terms of biodiversity. Work on the Don Sahong dam is slated to begin in December at a site less than two kilometers from the Cambodian border, according to Lao officials.

Cambodian fishermen who live by the Mekong River pass the time by their boats outside Phnom Penh. Photo credit: Reuters

Environmental groups have warned that the 260-megawatt dam threatens to block the only channel that currently allows year-round fish migrations on a large scale and will certainly wipe out one of the last populations of endangered Irrawaddy dolphins.
Laos, which shrugged off those concerns altogether, has also been at odds with its riparian neighbors — particularly Vietnam and Cambodia — over the project’s prior consultation (e.g. regional decision-making) process.
Laos maintains that it need only notify its neighbors of its intent to build the dam because it is located neither in the tributary nor on the mainstream of the Mekong. It’s downstream neighbors, however, have demanded that the consultation process take place before the dam is built, citing its trans-boundary impacts.
Vietnam, Thailand, Laos, and Cambodia are bound by a 1995 Mekong treaty that requires each signatory to hold inter-governmental consultations before damming the river. No single country has veto powers and Laos will have the final say on whether or not to proceed.
At a regional meeting of the Mekong River Commission — a regional body established to coordinate dam projects on the river — in Bangkok on Thursday, Laos said it would agree to resubmit the Don Sahong project to the prior consultation process.
But environmentalists say they view the process as a diplomatic formality.
During the meeting, Laos’ Deputy Energy Minister Viraphonh Viravong told participants “with your support and constructive input, the Lao government will continue to develop the project in a responsible and sustainable manner.”

He told reporters that construction would not start during the six-month consultation process. “No, we will not start building. That is courtesy. Laotians are courteous,” he was quoted by Reuters as saying Friday.

Naturally, that didn’t go over too well.
A recent site visit by International Rivers, a California-based environmental group, has confirmed that construction work towards the Don Sahong dam in southern Laos.
The site visit held in early June confirmed that workers have begun construction of a bridge connecting the mainland to Don Sadam Island, the group said. The bridge will create an access route for construction on the Hou Sahong Channel, it added.
“One has to wonder how sincere a consultation process is when infrastructure in support of the project is being put into place at the same time,” said Ian Baird, an expert on Laos and specialist on hydro-power dams and fisheries at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
‘Laos has few resources’
In November 2012, Laos broke ground on the US$3.8-billion 1,260-megawatt Xayaburi dam project despite vehement objections from environmental groups and its neighbors who said the 810-meter (2,600ft) dam would unleash massive ecological changes on a river that feeds around 60 million people. The project is now 40 percent complete, according to Lao officials.
Opponents of the Xayaburi and Don Sahong projects said their commencement would usher in the construction of the 9 other dams planned by Laos on the Mekong, which begins in the Tibetan plateau and flows through China, Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam before emptying into the East Sea (internationally known as the South China Sea).
At that time, Laos prematurely insisted that the prior consultation process on the Xayaburi project was already over, which drew sharp criticism from three other Mekong nations. Since then, the four countries have failed to agree on whether or not the process is still ongoing.
“The failure to reach consensus was interpreted by Laos as a green light to move ahead with construction of the Xayaburi dam,” Goichot said. “We cannot see any signs that this will be different for Don Sahong.”
Landlocked Laos plans to become the “battery of Southeast Asia” by exporting the vast majority of its power – mostly to Thailand – and has promoted the Xayaburi dam as a potential source of income and investment that will spur its small economy.
“Laos has few resources. Hydroelectricity is one, and the Lao government is determined to exploit it,” said Martin Stuart-Fox, a Laos expert at the University of Queensland in Australia. “Most dams have been relatively uncontroversial because they have been on tributaries. Don Sahong and Xayaburi are controversial because they are on the Mekong itself,” he said.
“From the Lao point of view, why should they be prevented from exploiting the river?”
Light at the end of the tunnel?
But on the bright side, the concession made by Laos has come at a convenient juncture for environmental groups and activists.
On Tuesday, Reuters reported that a Thai court agreed to hear a lawsuit against state-owned Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (EGAT) and four other state bodies for agreeing to buy electricity from the Xayaburi project. Thailand plans to buy around 95 percent of the electricity generated by the massive mainstream dam.
Villagers from Thai provinces near the Mekong petitioned the Administrative Court in 2012 to suspend a power purchasing agreement signed by EGAT and Laos’s Xayaburi Power Company Limited, but the court ruled it had no jurisdiction to hear the case. That decision was reversed on Tuesday when the Supreme Administrative Court sided with villagers, who are demanding full environmental and health impact assessments.
The court will now call on the Thai government agencies to respond to questions and allow the plaintiff to rebut their response.  The court could take a year or longer to renders a verdict.
“[If] the power purchase agreement is suspended or cancelled, it will be financially risky for the developer to proceed with construction on the Xayaburi Dam as there will be no buyer for the dam’s electricity,” said Ame Trandem, Southeast Asia program director for International Rivers.
A growing civil society movement against dam construction has taken hold throughout the region. Meanwhile, Vietnam and Cambodia have reiterated their calls for a 10-year moratorium on all dam construction on the Mekong’s mainstream.
Numerous studies have underlined the threat the dam poses to Vietnam’s Mekong Delta (the world’s rice basket) which is already sinking and shrinking.
Activists say that although it is still not too late to halt the dams and devise a plan to promote the sustainable development of the Mekong, success in doing so would hinge on the political will of governments to make sound scientific decisions before forging ahead with any more dam construction.
If the dam-building binge continues unchecked, “Vietnam, as the most downstream country, has probably the most to lose, but millions of people in Cambodia Laos and Thailand are also at risk,” Goichot said.
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An Dien
Thanh Nien News

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Click on the link to get more news and video from original source:  http://asiancorrespondent.com/124211/laos-to-forge-ahead-with-controversial-mekong-dam/

Jun 27, 2014, 1:58 PM UTC

Serious concerns remain despite officials’ promise to hear input from locals and neighboring Mekong nations

Activists concerned with development along the Mekong River saw a small victory this week when the Supreme Administrative Court of Thailand agreed to take a case against Thai government agencies that purchased power from the Xayaburi dam in neighboring Laos. The Bangkok Post reported that the villagers who filed the complaints “accused the agencies of not complying with constitutional requirements before signing an agreement to purchase power from the Xayaburi dam.”

The villagers filed three orders with the court, according to the Bangkok Post: The first was to withdraw the cabinet resolution that allowed the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (EGAT) to purchase power from the Xayaburi Power Company; the second was to revoke the Power Purchase Agreement that was signed in 2011; and the third requested that the defendants “respect community rights and comply with the constitution by arranging transparent public hearings, as well as health and environmental impact assessments before signing power purchase.” The first two orders were dismissed, but the court supported the third.

Meanwhile, during a meeting of the Mekong River Commission Thursday Laos announced it will move ahead with plans on a second dam, the Don Sahong, despite concern over construction of that one as well. The Laos government will submit plans to the Mekong River Commission Council for review, but refused to halt construction, according to Asia Sentinel. Viraphonh Viravong, Laos’ vice chairman of Energy and Mines, said the country wants to cooperate with other Mekong nations and open its plans to them under a Prior Consultation process, according to the Bangkok Post.

Teerapong Pomun, director of the Living River Siam Association, which advises the Mekong River Commission, said the court’s decision will allow locals affected by the project to voice their concerns about the impact the dam will have on communities along the Mekong. Teerapong said the companies involved in the dam development need to educate local people and include them in discussions about how the dam will impact their livelihoods, and how to mitigate problems caused by the development. He said that environmental groups hope the Xayaburi court case can be used as a standard in the future, especially looking ahead to the ASEAN integration in 2015. Teerapong hopes Thailand will set a precedent for including locals in the research and planning process, and for mitigating negative construction impacts before building even begins.

The 1,285 mega-watt Kayaburi dam is being built in Xayaboury province in northern Laos. The Laos and Thai governments are cooperating on the project, with one of Thailand’s largest construction companies and several Thai banks (including the government-owned Krung Thai Bank) involved, according to International Rivers. The Kayaburi is one of 11 dams planned for the Mekong region and activists have expressed serious concerns about the detrimental impact these could have on the environment and local economies in Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam.

In its media kit on the Xayaburi dam, International Rivers states:

The costs of the Xayaburi Dam will be borne by the millions of people who live along the Mekong River, including in Laos and Thailand. Scientists expect that the dam will block critical fish migration routes
for between 23 to 100 species, including the iconic Mekong Giant Catfish. The dam would also destroy the river’s complex ecosystems that serve as important fish habitats. It would block the flow of sediments and nutrients, affecting agriculture as far downstream as the Mekong Delta in Vietnam. The Lao government will resettle at least 2,100 people, and 202,000 people living near the dam site will be directly affected. Even in the early stages of construction, many of these people already face threats to their food security.”

On June 25, the Save the Mekong coalition issued a statement imploring regional leaders to “cancel the planned projects, including the Xayaburi and Don Sahong dams, and ensure that future decisions over the shared river are based on scientific knowledge, transboundary impact assessment, and respect for the rights of all riparian nations and the public to a transparent and participatory decision-making process.”

Teerapong said that for him and other activists, the best case scenario is that projects like the Xayaburi will be halted completely until local people have had a real chance to participate. Barring that, he hopes to see locals involved in finding solutions to problems the dams create, such as land erosion and decreased fish population.

Teerapong said Thai and other regional leaders must consider the long-term effects of the dams, such as food security and conflict among the Mekong nations.

“It’s not only [a concern] for Thai and Laos people,” he said. “If it happens, what is the mitigation to solve the conflict? They have to let local people in the Mekong countries join the committee to solve the problems.”

The Mekong is a major food and income source for people in the Mekong nations, and environmentalists have expressed grave concerns about changing water levels and damage to fish populations. Teerapong said soil erosion is already happening and that the water levels will make it harder for farmers to irrigate their fields, costing them more money to raise their crops. He added that people in affected communities who may end up losing land and resources need to be fairly compensated, and that consequence should be taken into account before the dams are even built.

At the commission meeting, Laos officials “admitted that the Don Sahong channel is a key migratory route in the dry season, but there are several other channels that support fish migration,” according to the Bangkok Post. Viraphonh also said Laos will improve the channels in the Khone Falls to aid fish migration and work closely with local officials to promote fishery management, conservation and sustainable fishing, and broaden economic opportunities for fishing families.”

 

May 8, 2014

Why We Shouldn’t Dam the World’s Most Productive River – ทำไมเราถึงไม่ควรสร้างเขื่อนในแม่น้ำโขง

 

Why We Shouldn’t Dam the World’s Most Productive River

Saving the Mekong’s giant fish

Click on the link to get more news and video from original source:  http://environment.nationalgeographic.com/environment/freshwater/lessons-from-the-field-mekong-giant-fish/

 

A Mekong giant catfish on the Tonl$#233; Sap River, Cambodia.

A Mekong giant catfish on the Tonlé Sap River, Cambodia.

ABOUT LESSONS FROM THE FIELD: National Geographic is inviting scientists, community leaders, water managers, conservationists, and activists to share the lessons they’ve earned from the field—and the innovative solutions they’ve found. We hope their stories will build a shared sense of community and motivate the public across the world to conserve freshwater and the diversity of life it sustains. Read all of their stories.

Photograph by Zeb Hogan, National Geographic grantee

Read morehttp://dtphorum.com/pr4/showthread.php?3789-T%E1%BB%99i-Nghi%E1%BB%87p-%C4%90%E1%BB%9Di-Sau&p=128615

Dams spell Doom (talkvietnam):  http://www.talkvietnam.com/2012/10/dams-spell-doom/#.U2OsvPldUpo

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By Zeb Hogan

Assistant Research Professor, University of Nevada

It’s unclear why so many species of giant fish occur in the Mekong River, the 2,700-mile (4,350-kilometer) river that runs from southern China to the delta south of Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. Certainly part of the answer is the river’s size: Large rivers have more space and more food to accommodate larger fish.

Another part of the answer may lie in the productivity of the Mekong River Basin ecosystem, including the floodplains and flooded forests that provide an abundant source of food for many species of fish during the rainy season.

The Mekong River is also—depending on whom you ask—either the second or third most biodiverse river on Earth (in terms of freshwater fish) and it’s logical that a river with so many species of fish would also support several species of giants.

Not only is the diversity of large fishes found in the Mekong amazing, so is these fishes’ persistence, given the number of people who live on the river and the level of fisheries’ exploitation. It just goes to show that fish populations can be remarkably resilient: It’s not typically overfishing that drives species to extinction. Usually, it’s habitat degradation or invasive species.

In this sense, the Mekong River is still a relatively healthy, natural, free-flowing river—a river that, in large part due to the fact that most habitats and connections between habitats are still intact—is still capable of producing 2,500,000 million tons of fish a year. That makes it the most productive river in the world.

Given that the Mekong does produce so much fish, it’s not unreasonable to question whether the benefits of proposed dam projects will outweigh the environmental costs. It’s a question that needs to be answered (and will require more study) before construction of the dams moves forward.

The hydropower dam planned on the Mekong River in Sayabouly Province, northern Laos, is a threat to the survival of the wild population of Mekong giant catfish. Under threat are the suspected spawning locations for many species of fish. The Sayabouly dam is the first lower Mekong River mainstream dam to enter a critical stage of assessment before construction is approved by the Mekong River Commission, which includes representatives from Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, and Vietnam, according to a recent World Wildlife Fund (WWF) report on the ecological implications of new dam projects.

The other dam closest to being approved is the Sahong. The Sahong channel is the most important migratory pathway in Southern Laos.

WWF is absolutely correct to suspect that mainstream Mekong dams will have deleterious effects on the giant fish of the Mekong. Almost all of the information that we have about these species (e.g. the Mekong giant catfish is highly migratory, endemic to the Mekong, seems to need specific cues to spawn, cannot reproduce in reservoirs, and probably spawns in northern Thailand and in Laos), suggests that the Sayabory dam and other Mekong dams will have serious negative impacts.

The same is true of other species of Mekong giants: We know very little about the ecology of these species and what we do know suggests that they need healthy, free-flowing rivers to survive.

Without further study, it’s highly likely that mainstream dams will drive at least one, if not all, of these species to extinction. We’ve seen something similar happen on the Yangtze where the two largest species in that river are now in grave danger  after dam construction (one, the Chinese paddlefish, may already be extinct).

Beyond dams, the other threats to the Mekong’s megafish include over-harvest (which has already brought populations of giant Mekong species to very low levels), habitat degradation (such as dredging and blasting upstream of the only known spawning ground of Mekong giant catfish), and invasive species.

One of the largest fish in the world, the Mekong giant catfish can reach 10 feet (3 meters) long and weigh up to 650 pounds (300 kilograms). This critically endangered species has suffered from all of the above—overfishing, dam building, and habitat destruction.

The risk of losing these fish before we understand them—and the threats they face—cannot be overstated.

Up to 80 percent of Mekong giant fish are at risk of extinction.

Several large-bodied catfish of the Mekong are migratory.

Mekong giant catfish, “dog-eating” catfish, and giant barb (Catlocarpio siamensis) are extremely rare, with only 5-10 adult fish caught per year.

Mitigation

There are several actions that would help ensure the survival of the giant fish species of the Mekong, including:

•    Maintenance of connectivity between rearing grounds and spawning habitat: Many species of Mekong fish have complex life cycles that involve long-distance migrations. Maintenance of migratory pathways is crucial.

•    Management of the river for environmental flows: Both the fish and the fisherfolk of the Mekong rely on the natural dry season, rainy season cycle. Flows often cue fish to migrate or spawn and the high flows of the rainy season open up vast habitats for feeding fish. Likewise, local people have invented all manner of ingenious ways of catching fish and most of these methods are adapted to a specific site, flow, and time of year.

•    Regulation and monitoring of harvest: Over-harvest is a serious threat to the Mekong’s largest, longest-lived, and most vulnerable species. In areas with heavy fishing pressure (and that includes virtually the entire Mekong Basin), catch of the largest fish must be regulated to ensure their survival. Lessons from other parts of the world indicate that relatively slow-growing large-bodied fish cannot sustain heavy fishing pressure indefinitely.

•    Research and decision-making based on research: This may seem like standard scientist-speak, but research on the ecology and conservation status of giant fish is urgently needed in the Mekong River Basin. The “dog-eating” catfish (Pangasius sanitwongsei) is a case in point. We know almost nothing about its ecology or conservation status and yet it is undoubtedly one of the largest, most rare, and most vulnerable fish in all of Southeast Asia. It’s likely that at least a hundred times more research is being done on salmon in the Pacific Northwest of the United States than on fish in the Mekong, but the consequences of losing the Mekong’s fish are a hundred times more significant in terms of biodiversity and potential impact to livelihoods.

Zeb Hogan earned an undergraduate degree in ecology and evolutionary biology from the University of Arizona. He later became a visiting Fulbright student at the Environmental Risk Assessment Program at Thailand’s Chiang Mai University. Returning to the United States, Hogan completed a National Science Foundation-sponsored Ph.D. in ecology at the University of California, Davis. He is currently a fellow at the University of Wisconsin and a World Wildlife Fund fellow. Hogan also leads Megafishes, an effort to protect the world’s largest freshwater fishes, and is a research assistant professor at the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Science at the University of Nevada.

For More Information:

The Megafishes Project

Mekong River Commission

WWF

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ทำไมเราถึงไม่ควรสร้างเขื่อนในแม่น้ำโขง

Click on the link to get more news and video from original source:  http://www.seub.or.th/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=1165%3Aseubnews&catid=5%3A2009-10-07-10-58-20&Itemid=14#.U2BqCQhu90F.facebook

ยังไม่มีข้อสรุปแน่ชัดว่าทำไมปลาขนาดใหญ่หลายชนิดปรากฎตัวอยู่ในลำน้ำโขง แม่น้ำขนาดใหญ่ที่มีความยาวราว 4,350 กิโลเมตร ที่ไหลจากตอนใต้ของประเทศจีนไปยังเมืองโฮจิมินฮ์ ประเทศเวียดนาม ซึ่งขนาดของมันนี่เองที่อาจเป็นคำตอบถึงความหลากหลายทางชีวภาพในลำน้ำโขง

อีก ส่วนหนึ่งของคำตอบคือความอุดมสมบูรณ์ของระบบนิเวศลำน้ำโขง ซึ่งรวมไปถึงพื้นที่ราบและพื้นที่ป่าน้ำท่วมถึง ซึ่งเป็นแหล่งอาหารให้กับปลาหลายชนิดในช่วงฤดูน้ำหลาก และข้อความจริงที่ว่า ลำน้ำโขงเป็นแม่น้ำที่มีความหลากหลายสูงที่สุดเป็นอันดับสองหรือสามของโลก เมื่อเปรียบเทียบกับแหล่งน้ำจืด จึงไม่น่าแปลกใจที่จะมีสปีชีส์ปลาขนาดใหญ่อาศัยอยู่เป็นจำนวนมาก
นอกจากความหลากหลายทางชีวภาพที่น่าแปลกใจ แต่ปลาที่พบในแม่น้ำโขงยังทำหน้าที่หล่อเลี้ยงคนจำนวนมากที่ทำอาชีพประมงได้ อย่างดี ในขณะที่จำนวนประชากรของปลาในลำน้ำก็ยังสามารถฟื้นฟูมาจนเพียงพอต่อการประมง ดังนั้นการจับปลาเกินขนาดคงไม่สามารถทำให้สายพันธุ์เหล่านั้นสูญพันธุ์ แต่ภัยคุกคามที่สำคัญคือการทำลายล้างแหล่งที่อยู่อาศัย

ในมุมนี้ ลำน้ำโขงนับว่าเป็นแม่น้ำที่ยังคงสภาพดี มีการไหลค่อนข้างเป็นธรรมชาติ กล่าวคือไม่มีการก่อสร้างสิ่งปลูกสร้างขนาดใหญ่มาขวางกั้นลำน้ำ ดังนั้นพื้นที่อยู่อาศัยของปลาก็ยังมีขนาดใหญ่และสามารถเดินทางขยายพันธุ์ ได้อย่างอิสระ และตัวเลขสถิติการจับปลาปีละกว่า 2,500,000 ล้านตันต่อปี ก็สะท้อนได้อย่างดีว่าลำน้ำนี้คือลำน้ำที่มีผลผลิตมากที่สุดของโลก

จาก ศักยภาพในการผลิตปลาจำนวนมากนี้เอง คำถามที่ว่าประโยชน์ที่ได้จากการก่อสร้างเขื่อนนั้น จะคุ้มค่ากับต้นทุนทางธรรมชาติที่เสียไปหรือไม่ ก็เป็นคำถามที่จะต้องตอบและศึกษาเพิ่มเติม ก่อนจะเดินหน้าสร้างเขื่อน

เขื่อน ไฟฟ้าพลังงานน้ำที่จะก่อสร้างในจังหวัดไซยะบุรี ทางตอนเหนือของลาว นับเป็นภัยคุกคามอย่างใหญ่หลวงต่อประชากรปลาขนาดใหญ่ในแม่โขง เนื่องจากการก่อสร้างเขื่อนจะไปทำลายแหล่งที่อยู่อาศัยตามธรรมชาติของปลา หลายชนิด และเขื่อนไซยะบุรี ยังเป็นเขื่อนแรกในลุ่มน้ำโขงตอนล่างที่มีการก่อสร้างเดินหน้าไปอย่างต่อ เนื่อง ในขณะที่กรรมการลุ่มน้ำโขง ซึ่งประกอบด้วยประเทศไทย ลาว กัมพูชา และเวียดนาม ยังไม่ได้ให้การรับรอง

นอกจากเขื่อนไซยะบุรี ก็ยังมีอีกเขื่อนหนึ่งที่จะก่อสร้างในลำน้ำดอนสะโฮง ลำน้ำสายย่อยที่เป็นช่องทางสำคัญที่สุดของปลาอพยพทางตอนใต้ของประเทศลาว

กอง ทุนสัตว์ป่าสากลหรือ WWF มองว่าการก่อสร้างเขื่อนดังกล่าวจะส่งผลกระทบอย่างร้ายแรงต่อพันธุ์ปลาขนาด ใหญ่ในลำน้ำโขง และจากข้อมูลทั้งหมดที่เรามีเกี่ยวกับสายพันธุ์ปลาขนาดใหญ่อย่างปลาบึก (Mekong Giant Catfish) ซึ่งเป็นสายพันธุ์ปลาอพยพ มีพบเฉพาะในลำน้ำโขง และดูเหมือนว่าจำเป็นต้องใช้พื้นที่เฉพาะในการขยายพันธุ์ ไม่สามารถแพร่พันธุ์ได้ในอ่างเก็บน้ำ การก่อสร้างเขื่อนกั้นลำน้ำโขงสายหลักย่อมส่งผลร้ายต่อสายพันธุ์ปลาดังกล่าว

ข้อ ความจริงดังกล่าวก็เช่นเดียวกับปลาขนาดใหญ่สายพันธุ์อื่นในแม่โขง ที่เรารู้ข้อมูลเกี่ยวกับระบบนิเวศของสปีชีส์เหล่านี้ค่อนข้างน้อย แต่สิ่งเดียวที่เราคาดว่าปลาเหล่านี้ต้องการคือสายน้ำที่ไม่ถูกกักกั้นและ ไหลตามธรรมชาติ

การก่อสร้างเขื่อนขนาดใหญ่ อย่างน้อยต้องส่งผลกระทบให้บางสปีชีส์ต้องสูญพันธุ์ เช่นเดียวกับกรณีตัวอย่างการสร้างเขื่อนในแม่น้ำแยงซีเกียง ที่หลังการก่อสร้าง ทำให้สายพันธุ์ปลาขนาดใหญ่สองสายพันธุ์ต้องเสี่ยงต่อการสูญพันธุ์

นอก จากภัยคุกคามจากการก่อสร้างเขื่อนแล้ว ปลาขนาดใหญ่ในลำน้ำโขงยังต้องพบภัยคุกคามอีกหลายอย่าง จนกว่าร้อยละ 80 ของสปีชีส์ปลาขนาดใหญ่พบกับความเสี่ยงต่อการสูญพันธุ์

จะดีกว่าไหม ถ้าเราหันมาศึกษาเรียนรู้พวกเขา ก่อนจะก่อสร้างโครงการขนาดใหญ่ ?

แนวทางการลดผลกระทบ
– สร้างเส้นทางเชื่อมต่อระหว่างที่อยู่อาศัยและพื้นที่ขยายพันธุ์ เนื่องจากปลาหลายชนิดในลำน้ำโขงมีลักษณะเป็นปลาอพยพทางไกล การรักษาไว้ซึ่งช่องทางในการอพยพจึงเป็นเรื่องสำคัญ

- การบริหารจัดการให้ปล่อยน้ำตามลักษณะการไหลธรรมชาติ เนื่องจากทั้งปลาและชาวประมงรอบลำน้ำโขง จำเป็นต้องดำรงชีวิตตามฤดูกาลแล้งและฝนตามธรรมชาติ การไหลของน้ำจะสัมพันธ์กับการอพยพของปลาเพื่อขยายพันธุ์ หรือการสร้างพื้นที่น้ำท่วมใหม่เป็นแหล่งอาหารให้กับปลา รวมไปทั้งชาวประมงในพื้นที่ที่คิดค้นวิธีการจับปลาที่สอดคล้องกับธรรมชาติ

- ต้องมีการทำวิจัย เพื่อใช้ข้อมูลในการตัดสินใจ เนื่องจากหลายสายพันธุ์ที่เสี่ยงต่อการสูญพันธุ์เช่น ปลาเทพา (Pangasius sanitwongsei) ที่เราแทบไม่รู้จักการดำเนินชีวิตและระบบนิเวศของมัน ซึ่งปลาดังกล่าวนับเป็นปลาที่ใหญ่ที่สุด หายากที่สุด และมีค่าที่สุดในเอเชียตะวันออกเฉียงใต้ ซึ่งหากเปรียบเทียบแล้ว ในสหรัฐฯมีการทำวิจัยเกี่ยวกับกลาแซลมอนคิดเป็น 100 เท่าของการทำวิจัยปลาในแม่น้ำโขง ทั้งๆที่การสูญเสียสายพันธุ์ปลาในแม่น้ำโขงนั้น จะส่งผลเป็นร้อยเท่าต่อระบบนิเวศและความเป็นอยู่ของคน

บทความโดย Zeb Hogan ผู้ช่วยนักวิจัยมหาวิทยาลัย Nevada (Assistant Research Professor, University of Nevada)
ต้นฉบับจาก Why We Shouldn’t Dam the World’s Most Productive River’
http://environment.nationalgeographic.com/environment/freshwater/lessons-from-the-field-mekong-giant-fish/

April 8, 2014

Xayaburi: Experts renew quake fears over Xayaburi dam on Mekong River in Laos

 

Experts renew quake fears over Xayaburi dam on Mekong River in Laos

Thai geologist notes the massive barrage on the Mekong lies close to fault zones; contractor insists seismic guidelines are being followed

Click on the link to get more news and video from original source:  http://www.scmp.com/news/asia/article/1469903/experts-renew-quake-fears-over-xayaburi-dam-mekong-river-laos

Tom Fawthrop in Xayaburi, Laos

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 08 April, 2014, 10:12pm

UPDATED : Tuesday, 08 April, 2014, 10:22pm

Xayaburi dam on the Mekong. Photo: SCMP

Xayaburi dam on the Mekong. Photo: SCMP

Earthquake experts have renewed concerns about the potential for a seismic disaster hitting the massive Xayaburi dam, which is well under construction on the Mekong River in a quake-prone location in Laos.

Geologist Dr Punya Charusiri of Chulalungkorn University in Bangkok said: “The Xayaburi dam poses a potential danger because there are active faults close to the dam site.”

Dr Punya said there was a 30 per cent chance of a medium-sized earthquake hitting the dam site in the next 30 years, and a 10 per cent chance of a powerful earthquake of up to magnitude 7. He said: “If the fault at the dam site becomes active … there is no chance for seismic engineering to take care of that.”

He also said construction should “never have started” at such a site without further research into its seismic risk, although the dam’s builders say it already complies with all earthquake safety rules.

There have been a series of earthquakes near the project site in recent years, and Dr Punya’s warning comes after Phnom Penh expressed concerns about the earthquake risk at Xayaburi to the Laotian government in 2011.

In 2011, two quakes hit 48 kilometres from the dam site, one of 5.4 magnitude and one of 4.6. A month later a quake of 3.9 occurred 60 kilometres from the site. In 2007, a 6.3-magnitude quake hit the Xayaburi area.

Further away, in northern Myanmar, a 6.9 magnitude quake on March 24, 2011 killed 151 people.

Dr Punya said the quakes near Xayaburi occurred on what were thought to have been inactive faults, “an unusual development and one that causes additional concern”.

The dam is being built by Swiss-based Poyry Energy and Thai company CH. Karnchang. They insist the dam will be safe.

Poyry Energy’s general manager, Dr Martin Wieland, said seismic hazards at Xayaburi had been thoroughly studied and all aspects of the dam’s construction were in accordance with seismic design guidelines prepared by the International Commission on Large Dams (ICOLD).

However, researchers at Chulalungkorn University used remote sensing techniques to identify two active faults nearby, one 60 kilometres from the site and one 20 to 40 kilometres away.

Dr Punya said: “The company should never have started construction of the dam on a fault, before the research into the seismic danger had been completed.”

The government of Laos officially launched the Xayaburi dam project in November 2012, despite protests from the downstream nations of Cambodia and Vietnam, scientists and a host of NGOs. Critics fear the dam’s environmental impact, as well as the risk posed to food production by massively reducing fisheries and the loss of sediment that would affect soil fertility and agriculture.

Te Navuth, secretary general of Cambodia’s National Mekong Committee, said: “An independent and specialised research team must assess the risk of earthquakes and dam safety.”

The Mekong River Commission, an advisory body with representatives from nations along the river, made several requests for information on dam safety management before the Laotian government last month released a “probabilistic seismic hazard assessment”. Thirty per cent of the dam has already been built.

The US$3.5 billion hydropower project, which will sell energy to Thailand, is scheduled for completion in 2019.

Poyry Energy’s Asia director, Knut Sierotzki, recently said “all relevant guidelines from ICOLD were followed by the design engineer to ensure the safety of such a large hydraulic structure”.

Critics say the ICOLD is not an independent research body, but a forum for the dam engineering lobby largely funded by hydropower companies. Poyry’s Dr Wieland is also chairman of the committee on seismic aspects of dam design for the ICOLD.

Last week the Vietnam Rivers Network, a group of NGOs based in Vietnam, called for the immediate suspension of the Xayaburi dam project, citing risks to fisheries, food security and livelihood.

April 8, 2014

Ho Chi Minh City: At Mekong meet, all eyes on Laos dams

At Mekong meet, all eyes on Laos dams

Click on the link to get more news and video from original source:  http://www.phnompenhpost.com/national/mekong-meet-all-eyes-laos-dams
Mon, 7 April 2014

At Saturday’s Mekong summit in Ho Chi Minh City, leaders from Cambodia and Vietnam put Laos in the hot seat with strongly worded statements requesting regional cooperation and responsible use of the shared waterways.

“Even though they weren’t mentioned in the statements by name, everybody knew that implicitly [Laos’s] Don Sahong and Xayaburi [dams] were at the centre of the discussions,” Marc Goichot, a WWF hydropower specialist, said.

In a declaration following the summit, prime ministers from Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos agreed to prioritise studies assessing potential effects and consequences of major hydropower projects.

The Vietnamese and Cambodian delegations also requested suspension of major dam developments until after the studies’ completion and subsequent development of management guidelines protecting food security and livelihoods.

“We have to protect our own interests. We will not allow [for construction] if there will be a serious impact,” Lim Kean Hor, minister of water resources and meteorology, said.

Development partners at the summit also called for the Lower Mekong countries to recommit to transboundary collaboration through the Mekong River Commission – the intergovernmental body charged with coordinating sustainable use of the shared river resources.

The development partners on Friday also called on Cambodia to submit its Lower Sesan II dam for regional consultation, a request Ministry of Environment officials declined to comment on yesterday.

By the close of the summit, regional leaders reaffirmed their commitment to cooperation in the face of an increasing number of challenges that threaten the Mekong ecosystem, an approach conservationists say is crucial to protecting the river.

“If the Mekong leaders back their words with actions, [the summit] will hopefully mark the end of irresponsible dam development and the beginning of a more sustainable Mekong River,” Ame Trandem, International Rivers’ Southeast Asia coordinator, said.

Contact author: Laignee Barron

—————

Related:

The Cambodia Daily (subscription) -Apr 6, 2014
At a regional summit in Vietnam on Saturday, Cambodia once again urged Laos to delay construction on a controversial hydropower dam …

 

 

December 29, 2013

Laos is booming but cracks starting to show

Laos is booming but cracks starting to show

“We’re not any richer because of this dam. The only people who get anything, who get richer, are those in the government.”

Click on the link to get more news and video from original source:  http://www.abs-cbnnews.com/business/12/29/13/laos-booming-cracks-starting-show

By Aubrey Belford and Amy Sawitta Lefevre, Reuters
Posted at 12/29/2013 11:27 AM | Updated as of 12/29/2013 11:27 AM

A villager leads her buffalos in Khammouane province October 27, 2013. Photo by Audrey Belford, Reuters

VIENTIANE – For the Communists running Laos, the fruits of capitalism have never been so bountiful.

The Nam Phou fountain at the heart of the torpid capital, Vientiane, has transformed from a relic into a neon-lit phantasmagoria, surrounded by expensive restaurants. On the increasingly congested roads, the elite car choice is a Range Rover or, failing that, a Lexus.

This is the result of years of more than 8 percent growth, driven by commodities exports and a flood of investment from neighbouring China, Thailand and Vietnam. The Laos stock market, the world’s smallest, made its coy debut in 2011.

The boom in Laos, one of Asia’s poorest countries, is not over, but serious cracks are starting to show. Economists warn the country of 6.7 million is facing the downside of a development model based on easy credit, resource exploitation and infrastructure mega projects.

“The economy is overheating,” Ashvin Ahuja, who led an International Monetary Fund (IMF) delegation to Laos in September, told Reuters.

The IMF has identified a range of problems.

A shortfall in government revenues coupled with ballooning expenditure – particularly rises in pay to public servants – has seen the fiscal deficit rise to about 6.5 percent of GDP. Inflation is projected to rise to about 7.5 percent by the end of the year, and up to 9.4 percent next year.

The country’s foreign exchange reserves are enough to cover just 80 percent of one month’s imports. Western banking and business sources, who insisted on anonymity, told Reuters that there had been a shortage of U.S. dollars for several months.

On the streets of Vientiane, frustration is growing as prices rise and incomes become precarious.

In August, a kilo of pork sold by Chantara Phommavongsee at Vientiane’s Thong Kan Kham market went for 68,000 kip, or about $8.60, she said. Fast-forward four months and it was selling for 75,000 kip. Civil servants are coming less often – the government had not paid them in months.

The black economy, meanwhile, is thriving. On weekends, smart customers drive across the Mekong River to Thailand, where prices are cheaper, Chanthara said. Some come back with goods for sale. “Cars, food, medicine, building materials,” Chantara reeled off the list. “All Thai.”

The normally reticent and secretive government appears to be listening.

Prime Minister Thongsing Thammavong warned in September that “Laos is running a high level of debt and is at risk of a financial crisis” and ordered ministers to cut costs, according to the state-run Vientiane Times newspaper.

The government has delayed payments to some contractors, promised to curb salary rises and suspended a 760,000 kip monthly allowance for civil servants.

These measures have been welcomed by the IMF. But the fund has warned a major change of course is needed if the country wants to keep growing in the future.

MISSING OUT

Beneath the warnings of economists, there is a deeper critique from some quarters on the Lao development model: that the country is squandering its natural wealth and enriching its elite, while the majority is left behind.

One of the country’s traditional wealth generators, resource extraction, faces entrenched corruption. Commodities such as rubber and timber often pass out of the country with little or no tax being paid, thanks to an opaque network of political connections. At the same time, black market imports are flowing.

“Although all traditional economic indicators say Laos is doing okay, Laos is getting screwed,” a senior member of the Western business community in Vientiane told Reuters.

“Laos is missing out on an unquantified – by anyone, not the IMF, not the World Bank, anyone – amount of revenue.”

Optimists point to headline figures, such as a one-third decrease in the poverty rate in the 15 years to 2008. Pessimists focus on other indicators: the tiny landlocked country has Southeast Asia’s highest incidence of child mortality and one of its lowest school enrolment rates.

The government is staking much of its future on large-scale infrastructure projects, including multi-billion dollar road and high-speed rail links intended to turn Laos into a crossroads of China, Thailand and Vietnam.

Even more ambitiously, the country is seeking to become “the battery of Southeast Asia” through the construction of a series of massive dams on its pristine rivers, despite howls of protest from environmentalists. The government plans to export most of the electricity.

There are 13 dams operating in the country, and another 70, such as the giant Thai-funded Xayaburi dam on the Mekong, in the construction, planning or feasibility stages. The country aims to produce 12,500 megawatts of power by 2020.

Julian Newman, campaigns director at the London-based Environmental Investigation Agency, says many projects face the same problems that have plagued the export of commodities, with kickbacks and benefits flowing to business people and their allies in the Communist Party and government.

In some cases, contractors can earn a healthy sideline in illegally clearing forests near projects, Newman said.

Viraphonh Viravong, Laos’ Vice Minister of Energy and Mines, said the government was serious about rooting out corruption and that banks and international donors helped ensure the transparency of large scale projects.

“Wherever you go in this world, there is corruption. It exists not only in the least developed countries but in the most developed countries as well,” Viraphonh told Reuters by email.

Viraphonh said the government had last year imposed a moratorium on the granting of new large mining and plantation concessions, but would not rethink the pursuit of megaprojects.

“The Lao PDR is duty bound, morally and politically, to continue to harness the might of the rivers that flow through our country, to power cities, electrify rural areas and generate the necessary resources to overcome poverty, malnutrition, infant mortality, illiteracy and for the greater good of our people,” he said.

NO RICHER

If any project shows that Laos can pull off its dream of dam-based development it’s Nam Theun 2, a massive 1,000 megawatt project in the country’s south.

With the backing of the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank, the $1.45 billion dam went into operation in 2010 with a raft of measures to mitigate its environmental impact and contribute to local livelihoods.

For Nam Theun 2’s backers, the project is already a success. The dam is on track to earn $2 billion for the Lao government over 25 years, with monitoring in place to make sure the money does not evaporate. For the roughly 6,000 people displaced by the dam, life has also improved, said Meriem Gray, a spokeswoman for the World Bank.

Surveys done by the Nam Theun 2 Power Company found 87 percent of resettled villagers see themselves as better off, she said. School enrolments have also jumped, along with access to electricity and clean water.

Environmentalists, however, say the dam has been a disaster for the displaced, as well as 110,00 people reliant on downstream agriculture and fisheries.

A two-day visit by Reuters to the dam site also suggested the project’s achievements have been mixed at best.

Where villages once stood there is now a reservoir peppered with dead trees and stagnant water the colour of weak coffee. A narrow artificial peninsula hosts settlements for relocated locals.

In interviews with Reuters, residents repeated the same complaints. Power cuts are frequent, in spite of the nearby power plant. The 0.6 hectares of land granted to each family as part of the relocation deal was not enough to live off, they said, while fishing in the reservoir was often not good enough to provide an alternative livelihood.

One economic benefit that has arrived has been Laos’ traditional cash cow: black market resource extraction.

The project and the roads that have come with it have opened up the area to poaching and the near-eradication of valuable hardwoods from nearby forests, according to a recent independent report by a panel of experts commissioned by the World Bank.

Local people admitted to taking part in the illegal logging trade around Nam Theun 2 and claimed local government officials were complicit.

“We didn’t have to do this before moving here because we made a good living from the land,” said 43-year-old Wan, who told Reuters almost every family in his resettlement village was involved.

Mixay, the 45-year-old matriarch of a family of 10 in another village, echoed the sense of disappointment.

“I thought life would be much better, but it isn’t at all,” she said. “We’re not any richer because of this dam. The only people who get anything, who get richer, are those in the government.”

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